Call to Order and Roll Call
The4th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, October 14, 2013, at 1:00 PM, in Room 154 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Derrick Graham, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Mike Wilson, Co-Chair; Representative Derrick Graham, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., Joe Bowen, Jared Carpenter, David P. Givens, Denise Harper Angel, Alice Forgy Kerr, Gerald A. Neal, and Katie Stine; Representatives John Carney, Hubert Collins, Leslie Combs, Jim DeCesare, Jeffery Donohue, C.B. Embry Jr., Jim Glenn, Richard Heath, Joni L. Jenkins, James Kay, Brian Linder, Donna Mayfield, Reginald Meeks, Charles Miller, Rick G. Nelson, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Jody Richards, Tom Riner, Bart Rowland, Rita Smart, Wilson Stone, Addia Wuchner, and Jill York.
Guests: Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Clyde Caudill, Jefferson County public Schools, and Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Robert Rodosky, Jefferson County Public Schools, Jimmy Alan, Education Professional Standards Board, LaTonya Bell, Kentucky Department of Education, Erin Klarer, Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority and Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation, and Pastor Jerry Stephenson, Black Alliance for Education Options.
Approval of September 9, 2013, Minutes
Upon motion by Representative Collins, seconded by Representative Richards, the minutes were approved by voice vote.
Reports from Subcommittees
Senator Kerr reported that the Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education met to learn about the findings and recommendations of the Rural Access Work Group. Representative Stone reported that the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education heard presentations from ACT about changes to college readiness benchmarks assessments. Also, The Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics provided information about data reports available from the center. A complete set of minutes for each subcommittee is located in the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) library.
School District Examinations
Adam Edelen, Auditor of Public Accounts said his office has conducted 14 special examinations of school districts in the past year. The school districts were Kenton County, Breathitt County, Mason County, Dayton Independent, Webster County, Pike County, Ashland Independent, Carroll County, Metcalfe County, Fayette County, Menifee County, Letcher County, Montgomery County, and Martin County. Also, there is an ongoing investigation of Jefferson County Public Schools. This is the first meaningful attempt to conduct a fiscal audit of Kentucky school districts. Mr. Edelen said the examinations his office has performed do not paint a picture of extensive abuses by central office staff of these school districts. Most school districts are doing a wonderful job in very difficult financial times.
The Auditor’s Office is charged to perform 600 statutorily required audits a year. His office does not have the funds to conduct random investigations. Mr. Edelen said the main purpose of the audit, is to ensure limited resources are making their way to classrooms rather than to central offices.
Mr. Edelen said examinations are prompted by concerns and allegations that come from citizens, legislators, public officials, and school board members. Preliminary complaints come through a tips hotline and a website set up by the Auditor’s Office. The Auditor’s Office has facilitated conversations with organizations that represent school board members, teachers and administrators. The office has disseminated best practice recommendations on transparency and fiscal accountability.
Mr. Edelen said Mason County Public Schools and Dayton Independent Schools had the worse two examinations out of the 14. In the Dayton Independent School district the former superintendent enriched himself with $224,000 during his tenure there. The Auditor’s Office has referred the case to law enforcement agencies because the Auditor’s Office believes there should be a consequence for stealing from children. In Mason County there was a superintendent who engaged in $200,000 worth of questionable expenditures and personal benefits, along with a lack of proper board oversight.
Mr. Edelen said one of the common themes his office has found during the examinations is a lack of proper balance between school boards and superintendents. Every high performance school district in Kentucky has an appropriate balance between the school board and the superintendent role. Mr. Edelen said there needs to be an increased level of financial literacy for those who serve on school boards in Kentucky.
Mr. Edelen said there is no need for any public administrator to be getting benefits that are not in their contract. The Auditor’s Office have worked very closely with the Kentucky School Board Association and the organization that represents superintendents to make sure that the benefits the superintendents get are specified in the contract. School boards also need to closely monitor expense reimbursements for travel and credit cards used by superintendents and supporting documentation.
Mr. Edelen said there is a constant line of communication between his office and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). Mr. Edelen recommended last year that KDE begin requiring school boards to submit superintendent contracts and benefits to KDE so they can be placed on a website for the public to see and access. Currently there are more than 170 superintendent contracts that are available online for the public to see. Mr. Edelen also supports Commissioner Terry Holliday’s request for additional training for school board members. This additional training is strongly supported by the superintendents and the School Board Association. Mr. Edelen also supports Commissioner Holliday’s call for improved superintendent evaluation processes. After 2013 there should no longer be any oral evaluations in Kentucky. Superintendent evaluations should be written and made available to the public as required by KRS 156.557.
Mr. Edelen said Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) is the second largest individual government in the state with a $1.2 billion budget. There are more than 100,000 students with 62 percent of them on free and reduced lunch and 10,000 of those students are homeless at some point during the school year.
Representative James Kay noted that the Kentucky constitution provides for a strong Auditors position in Kentucky’s government to review how taxpayers’ dollars are spent.
In response to Representative James Kay’s questions regarding responses from school districts under examination and the cost of examinations, Mr. Edelen said in most cases the response has been extremely positive and a number of districts are trying to do the right thing. Mr. Edelen said the examinations cost his office a lot more than the Auditor’s Office charges the school districts. The cost of the 14 examinations have been anywhere from $3,500 to $25,000.
Representative Rita Smart stated that out-of-pocket student expenditures is one of the most frequent complaints she receives as a Representative.
In response to Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo’s question regarding examples of his examination findings, Mr. Edelen said he is just getting started and would focus on the largest areas of public investment which is education and Medicaid.
In response to Senator Mike Wilson’s question regarding the percentage of finances going to actual school instruction of students, Mr. Edelen said he does not have any preliminary numbers at this time.
In response to Representative Reginald Meeks’ question regarding benchmarks and factors used for examining JCPS, Mr. Edelen said JCPS does have a special set of circumstances and the benchmarks used for JCPS need to be national. JCPS needs to be compared to districts around the country like Nashville, Tennessee and Charlotte, North Carolina that are similar in size.
In response to Representative Addia Wuchner’s question regarding clarity on the ratio of instructional dollars to other expenses, Mr. Edelen said he is hopeful that there will be increased clarity for better decision making.
In response to Representative Jody Richards’ questions regarding how districts were chosen for examinations and policy and financial recommendations, Mr. Edelen said his office received tips that come from all manner of places that can lead to district audits. His focus is on how taxpayer resources are expended.
Representative Jill York’s stated she is impressed with Mr. Edelen’s exploration of the out-of-pocket money teachers and administrators expend.
In response to Representative Derrick Graham’s questions regarding supportive legislation needed, Mr. Edelen said there is not a failure of existing law and the problems usually occur with an inappropriate unbalance between the school board and the superintendent. Also, there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the financial operations. Mr. Edelen said in some districts there is confusion on who the board attorney works for. In Mr. Edelen’s view, the board attorney does not work for the superintendent but the board.
Norman Cornelius, Housing Director, Bell-Whitley County Community Action Agency said one of his jobs as a financial counselor is to help people become financially stable. The most common problem that he saw is grant money that has been misused or credit card misuse for young people just out of high school.
Mr. Cornelius said the Bell-Whitley County Community Action Agency is connected with KDE’s Jumpstart Program and the University of Kentucky’s agricultural cooperative extension office. In March of 2012 the Bell-Whitley County Community Action Agency along with Representative Nelson met with Commissioner Holiday and suggested that there be a pilot project with financial literacy in Bell County.
Mr. Cornelius said he wants the addition of mandatory financial literacy courses in Kentucky’s high school curriculum for a half credit and a mandatory graduation requirement. Last year in Kentucky, 4,088 students out of 652,317 students enrolled in high school classes took a financial literacy elective course.
Mr. Cornelius spoke about the financial literacy and KEES results of the pilot program with KDE. He said the purpose of the pilot is to test the impact of the High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP) and student’s knowledge of the KEES program using a pre-test and post-test model. The evaluation was a 24 question pre-test and a 27 question post-test selected from the national Jumpstart Coalition Survey.
Mr. Cornelius said the evaluation sampled twelfth grade students from three different Bell County high schools and the names of students were anonymously coded by the classroom teachers to protect their identities. There was usable data collected from 111 participants. Mr. Cornelius stated that 63.9 percent of students had improved financial literacy scores after participating in the HSFPP with 26.1 percent having lower literacy scores and 9.9 percent staying the same. Mr. Cornelius said the difference in the schools performance may result in who taught the HSFPP curriculum. The evaluator’s hypothesis is that teachers with previous personal finance experience yield greater improvements in students’ financial literacy scores.
Mr. Cornelius said in Kentucky, HSFPP is supplemented with information regarding KEES. There were twelfth grade students that were asked questions regarding the specifics of the KEES program. At the beginning of the study fewer than half of the students knew “KEES” by the full title and less than a third of students knew the minimum GPA required for KEES eligibility. Also, less than a quarter of students knew the minimum ACT score required for eligibility. Mr. Cornelius said there was improvement in the KEES knowledge after HSFPP. There was a 48.6 percent improvement in the KEES score, 33 percent showed no change and 18.3 percent of students displayed a decrease in the test scores.
Representative Jim Glenn said he has been working on financial literacy since he became a state legislator. He has been teaching finance for twenty years at the community college level and stated financial literacy is an important concept and life skill.
In response to Senator Gerald Neal’s questions regarding financial literacy courses being utilized in schools and adult financial literacy programs, Mr. Cornelius said the resources are available in most schools but is not being utilized. Mr. Cornelius said there are resources all over the state for adult financial literacy.
Representative Joni Jenkins’ said young people going into college do not understand the importance of going to class and learning when receiving financial aid.
Senator Joe Bowen thanked Mr. Cornelius for an informative presentation and is happy to see this initiative turned over to the educational community instead of a government agency.
Jefferson County Public Schools Perspective on Charter Schools
Robert Rodosky, Director, Executive Director, JCPS, Accountability, Research, and Planning Division, said there is no conclusive evidence that charter schools will significantly impact student achievement. According to CREDO (2013) only 25 percent of charter schools are doing significantly better in reading than public schools while only 29 percent is doing significantly better in math. Dr. Rodosky said the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides strong comparative data about schools across the nation. In-depth analyses of NAEP show there are few differences between charter and public schools in academic performance, with a slight edge to public schools.
Dr. Rodosky said in 2010 there was a study done at the University of Minnesota that looked at the most cost effective research on reforming schools and raising student achievement. Out of the 22 approaches that were examined, the least cost effective approach was charter schools. Also, there was a study done by Columbia University in 2011 that questioned the fiscal impact of charter schools and the idea of separate operating systems from public schools.
Dr. Rodosky said Harvard University studied characteristics of highly effective charter schools and found that most shared the same characteristics. Those characteristics are, use of data to guide instruction, frequent teacher feedback, increased instructional time, high dosage tutoring, and high expectation. All of these characteristics and highly effective practices are found in JCPS’s Strategic Plan Vision 2015.
Dr. Rodosky said JCPS was fortunate enough to become a district of innovation which was created by 2012 House Bill 37. Each district of innovation has four different strategies. Innovation strategy one creates equal access to highly effective innovation through professional collaboration. Innovation strategy two extends learning opportunities so students may learn anywhere they have access to instructional materials. Innovation strategy three creates schools of innovation and strategy four creates a system of support for each student to be successful.
Dr. Rodosky said JCPS outperformed their annual improvement goal set by KDE. Over 75 JCPS schools also met their annual improvement goals set by KDE while 13 of JCPS’s 18 priority schools met their targets. Also JCPS’s percentage of college-and career-ready students is 51.2 percent which is more than a 19 percent increase since the 2010-11 school year.
Brent McKim, President, Jefferson County Teacher Association (JCTA), said JCTA is offering the staff of priority schools options to extend the school days and allow the staff of these schools to determine how best to use the additional time. JCTA also recommends making teaching more attractive at priority schools by enhancing paying working conditions.
Mr. McKim said Jefferson County should be cautious of charter schools. In education, Kentucky is advancing more quickly than surrounding states that have charter schools. According to Education Week, the states that have the most charter schools were also most likely to be found in the poor performing group. Also, in Wisconsin, the public schools outperformed the charter schools significantly. Mr. McKim said charter schools do not tend to select students who show poor performance and they tend to practice exiting students that show poor performance.
In response to Senator David Givens’ questions regarding disparity in CREDO’s charter school statistics, Dr. Rodosky said JCPS’s CREDO statistics on charter schools examines the achievement of charter schools compared to the achievement of public schools in general. Senator Givens stated that we all share the common goal of what is best for the students, but disputes JCPS’s statistics on charter schools. Dr. Rodowsky agreed with Senator Givens on wanting what is best for students across the state. Also, he wants to make sure Jefferson County has the most effective programs in term of how tax dollars are spent. According to the statistics he has, charter schools are not a cost effective approach.
Senator David Givens stated that he welcomes the chance to work with Mr. McKim on writing a piece of charter school legislation that has cost effectiveness written in the bill and would have no filtering of students after three or four years.
Representative Derrick Graham stated that a lot of what is in the charter school initiative is also in the schools of innovation.
Representative Jim DeCesare stated that he is for both, charter schools and traditional public schools and thinks there are a lot of successes in public, private, and charter schools. Also, parents should have the option on where to send their children, and the money should follow the children wherever they go.
Representative Derrick Graham stated that as public servants one of the first priorities should be providing resources to make sure our kids get the best possible education. By creating separate school systems there will be money taken away from public schools.
Representative Jeffery Donohue stated Kentucky has a responsibility to teach all students and give all children the same opportunity. Charter schools pick the students they want to have. We should concentrate our efforts improving the system we have in place.
Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo stated the public high school that she graduated from had not been doing well and became a school of innovation. Now the schools test scores have really improved because of House Bill 37.
Senator Mike Wilson stated he proposed a bill last year to have public charter schools. He said the Gatton Academy is a perfect example of a charter school in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Responding to Senator Mike Wilson’s question regarding the cost effectiveness of JCPS, Dr. Rodosky said one measures cost effectiveness by focusing on achievement and the money one allocates for achievement.
Representative Addia Wuchner stated she is a supporter of the public schools system and appreciates the open dialogue that was brought before the committee. She also commended Houston Barber and Fern Creek High School on their 38 percent increase in test scores.
Representative Reginald Meeks stated the numbers that Dr. Rodosky provides are always consistent and accurate and explained in a practical way for everyone to understand.
In response to representative Reginald Meeks question regarding the various strategies JCPS has used over the years, Dr. Rodosky said the use of data around benchmark and formative assessment have been strategies that worked well for JCPS over the years.
Representative Joni Jenkins thanked the presenters for their presentation and stated that legislators should support more innovative strategies to help students be successful.
With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 3:35 p.m.